Setting up and running a charity – guidance

Charity trustee disqualification

How someone can be banned ('disqualified') or removed as a charity trustee and how to check this on the register of removed trustees.

People who can’t be trustees

You must be at least 18 years old to be a charity trustee (16 if your charity is a company or charitable incorporated organisation (CIO)).

Some people are disqualified by law from acting as charity trustees. Subject to waiver provisions (see below) this includes anyone who:

  • has an unspent conviction for an offence involving dishonesty or deception
  • is currently declared bankrupt (or is subject to bankruptcy restrictions or an interim order) or has an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) with creditors
  • is disqualified from being a company director
  • has previously been removed as a trustee by either the Charity Commission or the High Court due to misconduct or mismanagement

It is normally an offence to act as a trustee while disqualified unless the commission has given a waiver. Special provisions apply to charitable companies. Find out more about disqualifications and waivers of disqualification in the commission’s staff guidance.

How to check if a prospective trustee is disqualified

Step 1: search the register of removed trustees

The register of removed trustees provides details of anyone who has been removed as a trustee by the High Court or the commission. It does not provide details of those who are disqualified for other reasons (for example, criminal convictions or insolvency).

For each disqualified person, the register holds:

  • their name
  • their address at the time of removal
  • the date the order was made
  • the name of the charity concerned

A person’s details remain on the register until the commission entirely lifts the disqualification. This means a person remains on the register even if a disqualification is partially lifted, for example, allowing them to be a trustee under certain conditions.

Step 2: ask prospective trustee to sign a declaration of eligibility

Get prospective trustees to confirm that they are not disqualified from being a trustee. The easiest way to do this is to ask them to complete a declaration of eligibility form to confirm they:

  • are willing and eligible to act as trustees
  • understand the charity’s purposes
  • have passed any checks required if the charity works with children or vulnerable people